I read with interest a recent article titled, “The Dark Side of Nice,” which discussed negative effects when someone tries to be nice by helping others and never saying “no.”
We all want to be known as a nice person, which equates to being helpful, cooperative and open to others. But the negative side is when someone overextends this niceness to others, often ignoring their own needs in the process. I call them “People Pleasers” as they always are going above and beyond to be helpful; for example, they are the ones who take on extra projects at work, or stay late when others won’t. In their personal lives, they will do all the household chores while their family members watch TV.
Over time, people pleasers become resentful and “stuff” their feelings, while becoming stressed and silently angry. They become caught in a cycle of helping and stuffing until there is a breakdown, which is usually them. They often suffer from low self-esteem so they help in order to gain validation of their goodness and worth, while others may fear conflict or rejection. The common thread is that whatever the reason, overly nice people do not have adequate boundaries.
According to author Susan Newman, “We live under this misconception that saying yes, being available, always at the ready for other people makes us a better person, but in fact it does quite the opposite. You get stressed and anxious; you’re viewed as a patsy.” They can be easily manipulated by others and feel powerless. All of which can take an emotional toll.
Setting boundaries is the way to still be “nice” while honoring your commitments to yourself and others. Learning to say “no” or speaking up when others are mean or taking advantage will set those boundaries because you do them assertively: you are not being mean or demeaning to others. As Susan Newman states, “People won’t think you’re a bad person, and you’re saving time and emotional energy for the tasks and people you want to give them to.”